I am the sort of mother who wishes her children's lives away. When they were helpless newborns I longed for the day when they crawled. When they crawled I longed for the day when they walked. When they walked I was impatient for speech, when speech arrived in a volley of vacuous questions, I counted the years until intelligent conversation and when intelligent conversation budded, I looked forward to the liberty of school days.
Now my oldest is nine and I want time to stop. I dread the transformation of adolescence as vigorously as she plans for it. I have no map to chart me through these turbulent years, for I was not a normal teenager. Doris Day was my pin up, tree-climbing my hobby and hand-me downs from the church warden my preferred daywear.
My 9-year-old, however, declares that she will marry a Chelsea footballer who embraces tattoos, body piercings and a daily night out down the pub. She studies her face in anxious anticipation of spots that will indicate the onset of puberty 'because then I get to be moody'.
She asks anxiously if ladies are allowed to swear. She begs trips to Hollister so she can ready her wardrobe for her teens. And she is experimenting with a gentle rebellion against all things are not cool (God, Clark's shoes, Classic FM, homemade fairy cakes, correct consonants, my waterproof coat, Skodas) and evangelising about all things that are (Juicy Couture, Barratts's shoes, Jesse J, cheese strings, silver people carriers, white leather sofa suites and Blue-nosed Bears).
Instinct warns me not to protest too vociferously, but she notes my trepidation and, pitying, hastens to set my mind at rest. 'I will have to swear when I'm a teenager,' she warns me kindly, 'but I won't smash windows.'